A comprehensive meta-analysis into the current relative performance of all top tier MBT lineups: As objective as possible personal perspective

Disclaimer: In light of the recent changes and discussion around the armour on certain NATO MBTs I decided to provide an exhaustive analysis to see how each individual lineup stacks up against each other. The parts where I add “in my opinion” are of course, sourced from personal experience.

The analysis will be focused on the already known tank triangle of firepower, mobility and protection. When comparing vehicles I do not own, I will refer to the nearest comparable premium.

Part 1: Taking inventory

For the purposes of defining top tier I will only refer to the battle ratings from 10.0 and up mostly because of the existence of T-72 (1989). In terms of nations I will be focusing on the “big 3” with a few honorable mentions from Sweden and the UK because of the number of MBTs they posses in the game as opposed to Italy, France or Japan.

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The methodology for counting was the following: I assumed you were a main of said nation and had the squadron vehicle(s) but did not have premiums. I also excluded vehicles of 10.3 BR in general because in the context of 11.7 would give lesser return on investment per SP. They were still noted down as nice to haves as last ditch backups but were not included in the official count. I did include however int the USSR count the T-80B and the T-72B(1989) because of their access to 3BM42 which is workable at top tier while having similar mobility to later models.

Likewise, I excluded event vehicles since the vast majority of players do not have access to them.

Conclusions: USSR has the most MBT variants they can draw upon at top tier, followed by the US/GB with 6 each, then followed by Sweden/Germany with 5 each.

However, I will now take into account the spawn cost of vehicles increasing with each death. If one wants to play to win, then we can surmise he will spawn vehicles in order of most effective to least effective bar special situations like spawning SPAA which I will discuss in another chapter. From experience the maximum amount of tanks one can spawn in a battle on average is about 3 to 5.

If we take this assumption into consideration, all nations get roughly an equal number of available MBT spawns of up to 5.

To make the following comparisons easier, from now on I will be condensing all the options into lineups to analyze, in the order of effectiveness:

Germany: Leo 2A7V, Leo 2A6, Leo 2 PSO, Leo 2A5, Leo 2 PL

US: M1A2 SEPV2, M1A2 SEP, M1A2, M1A1 HC, M1A1 AIM

USSR: T-80BMV, T-90M, T-80U, T-80UK, T72B3

GB: Challenger 3, Black Knight, Challenger 2E, Challenger 2 TES, Challenger 2F

Sweden: Strv122B+, Strv122B, Leo 2A6, Strv 122A, T-80U

Part 2: Mobility

In order to test the forward mobility of each tank and to ensure uniformity the metric I chose was to test drive each tank, from where you spawn up until the middle point of the destroyed bridge while preturning the tank to allign it with said bridge as to not lose speed while manouvering. They were all also done in refference mode as opposed to current modifications.

Germany: Leo 2PL: 55km/h, Leo 2PSO: 53km/h, Leo 2A6: 56km/h

US: M1A1 Clickbait: 55km/h, M1A1 AIM: 55km/h

USSR: T-80BVM: 57km/h, T-90M: 53km/h, T-80U: 59km/h, T-72B3: 57 km/h

GB: Challenger 2 OES: 47km/h

Sweden: -

At first glance most of top tier tanks have similar forward mobility over the given distance. I don’t have acess to any of the swedish leopards but judging that they’re weight wise somewhere between the 2A6 (59.9t) and the 2A7 (64.1t) at 62.6t - 62.9t depending on the version while being powered by the same MTU MB 873 Ka-501 engine their results should be somewhere in the range of 53-55km/h. Notable exceptions are the british Challengers who lag behind the pack at 47km/h. Another notable exception is that russian tanks because they have comparable engine powers at lower weight accelerate better in the 0-30km/h interval before leveling out.

T-80BVM got to the destroyed bridge in 14.1 seconds, Challenger 2 OES in 16.9 seconds, Leo 2 PSO in 14.6 seconds, Leo 2A5 in 13.9 seconds(!) and the M1A1 Clickbait in 14.5 seconds.

Mobility backwards was measured by both top speed and the time it took for the tank to achieve said speed.

Germany: Leo 2PL: -31km/h in 4.2 seconds, Leo 2PSO: -33km/h in 5.5 seconds, Leo 2A6: -31km/h 3.4 seconds

US: M1A1 Clickbait:-38km/h in 5.9 seconds, M1A1 AIM: -38km/h 5.74 seconds

USSR: T-80BVM: -11km/h in 1 second, T-90M: -4km/h ~0.4 seconds

GB: Challenger 2 OES: -20km/h in 2.76 seconds, -37km/h in 10 seconds

Sweden: Should be similar to the german leopards as they share a transmission as well.

Mobility Conclusions:

Most modern MBTs have great forward mobility in the roughly 15 seconds timespan with the aforementioned caveats. While not surprising for anyone who has been at top tier, russian tanks have an abysmal reverse speed, up to almost an order of magnitude if we are talking about the T-90M, while being above average in terms of forward mobility. Because of this I would argue that in terms of mobility the russian MBTs are only debatably second to worst, depending how much you value having a reverse gear (Chally series) versus being fast enough to take initial offensive positions at the start of a match (T-series).

Side note: NATO MBTs also have much faster hull traverse compared to T series tanks.

Part 3: Firepower

In this section I will analyze both soft firepower such as acess to thermal imagers and gun handling as well as ‘hard’ firepower such as the rounds available to each tank and their respective performance. Universally, the lineups above are armed with 120mm cannons, bar the russian ones which carry 125mm cannons.

Turret rotation and gun handling characteristics:

Germany: Leopard series: 23.8 degrees per second without horizontal drive (28.0 with horizontal drive)

US: M1A1 series: 23.8 degrees per second without horizontal drive (28.0 with horizontal drive)

USSR: T-80BVM: 36.6 degrees with horizontal drive, T-80U: 22.6 with horizontal drive, T-90M/T-72B3: 28 degrees with horizontal drive

GB: Challenger 2 series: 18.4 degrees without horizontal drive, 21.7 degrees with horizontal drive

Sweden: 23.8 degrees per second without horizontal drive (28.0 with horizontal drive)

Ger => US => Sweden > USSR > GB in terms of turret rotation rate.

The BVM here is the standout, however if we take into consideration hull rotation speeds as well, our ranking would look something more like this: Ger => US => Sweden >BVM > USSR => GB.

Gun depression:

Another one of the famous shortcoming of russian vehicles. Abrams and Challanger lines enjoy 10 degrees of gun depression while the Leopard line has 9 degrees. USSR tanks however only have 5 to 6 degrees of gun depression depending on which line you’re looking at.

Thermal imagers:

Germany: Leo 2A7V (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner), Leo 2A6 (Gen 1 Commander+Gunner), Leo 2 PSO (Gen 1 Commander+Gunner), Leo 2A5 (Gen 1 Commander+Gunner), Leo 2 PL (Gen 1 Commander+Gunner)

US: M1A2 SEPV2 (Gen 2+ Commander+Gunner), M1A2 SEP (Gen 2+ Commander+Gunner), M1A2 (Gen 1 Commander+Gunner), M1A1 HC (Gen 1 Gunner), M1A1 AIM (Gen 1 Gunner)

USSR: T-80BMV (Gen 2 Gunner), T-90M(Gen 2 Commander+Gunner), T-80U (Gen 1 Gunner), T-80UK (Gen 1 Gunner), T72B3 (Gen 2 Gunner)

GB: Challenger 3 (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner), Black Knight (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner), Challenger 2E (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner), Challenger 2 TES (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner), Challenger 2F (Gen 3 Commander+Gunner)

Sweden: Strv122B+ (Gen 3 Commander+ 1 Gunner), Strv122B (Gen 3 Commander+ 1 Gunner), Leo 2A6 (Gen 2 Commander+ 1Gunner), Strv 122A (Gen 2 Commander+ 1 Gunner), T-80U (Gen 1 Gunner)

I am a little unsure about the exact information Gaijin implemented in terms of thermal generations, I went with what I could find on the forums/google. But the russians generally have both worse gen thermals as well as having thermals on only the gunner for the most part. Advtange western MBTs.

ATGMs and HE:

Very niche but at least worth pointing out that against soft targets that HEAT might not be ideal, the russian, swedish and late versions of the challenger 2/leo can use high explosive shells, whereas the Abrams have multi purpose heat.

A unique but seldom used firepower gimmick of the russian T series tanks is that they can launch ATGMs directly from their barrels. These don’t exactly have much use unless you’re firing at a lightly armoured target from a substantial distance away (think over 2 kilometers).

Reload Rate:

Germany: 7.8s base, 6.9s maxed crew, 6.36s maxed crew + expert, 6s aced

US: 6.5s base, 5s aced (missing exact values for in-betweens)

USSR: 6.5 all T-80 variants, 7.1s all T-72 variants

GB: 6.5 base, 5s aced (missing exact values for in-betweens)

Sweden: 7.8s base, 6.9s maxed crew, 6.36s maxed crew + expert, 6s aced

That being said it comes with the caveat that you have to level up an extra crew member via the crew points system, however at base an Abrams or Challenger loader + commander operate at exactly the same speed as the fastest russian autoloader while Leopard 2s have to invest into maxing their commander + gunner and get expert qualification to beat the autoloader of the T-80 series. Without expert qualification which is quite pricey at 1 million lions, Leo 2s have a reload rate of 6.9 seconds only beating the reload of T-72 series and derivatives.

Russian tanks require less investment, however it is not that hard to ace 5 crews if you’ve been playing for some time. Meanwhile US and UK tanks come with the best or equal reload rate straight out of the box now.

The autoloader vs manual loader in Warthunder:

With the latest batch of balancing changes the aced reload of an Abrams loader was changed to 5 seconds. While 5 seconds is the qualifying time for a loader I don’t believe that this figure is entirely realistic and/or fair. Loader fatigue is not modeled in the game so your manual loader essentially functions like an autoloader for the whole duration of the game without any downsides, quite the contrary providing two extra benefits: you have one more crew member for the purposes of repairing and staying alive.

Ammunition:

Germany: Leo 2A7V, Leo 2A6, Leo 2 PSO, Leo 2A5, (DM53) Leo 2 PL (DM44)

US: M1A2 SEPV2, M1A2 SEP, M1A2, (M829A2) M1A1 HC (M829A1), M1A1 AIM (KE-W)

USSR: T-80BMV, T-90M, T-72B3 (3BM60), T-80U, T-80UK (3BM46)

GB: Challenger 3 (DM53), Black Knight, Challenger 2E, Challenger 2 TES, Challenger 2F (L27A1)

Sweden: Strv122B+, Strv122B, Leo 2A6, Strv 122A, (m/95) T-80U (3BM46)

M829A2: 629mm, 531mm, 364mm – 4.92 kg

DM 53: 623mm, 526mm, 360mm – 5kg

M829A1: 598mm, 505mm, 346mm – 4.89kg

m/95: 589mm, 497mm, 340mm – 5.6kg

KE-W: 583mm, 492mm, 337mm – 4 kg

3BM60: 580mm, 489mm, 335mm – 5.12kg

L27A1: 564mm, 476mm, 326mm – 4.3 kg

DM 43: 536mm, 452mm, 310mm – 4kg

3BM46: 532mm, 449mm, 308mm – 4.85kg

Firepower conclusions:

The US has by far the best reload rate, rounds available to them as well as also having the best depression and turret rotation. They have the best round in the game available on 3/5 of their vehicles and the other two in top 5. While also sporting overall almost the best thermal suite only slightly behind the German and Swedish lineups.

Germany has only a slightly worse round but it is available on 4/5 of their top tier tanks. Gun handling and turret rotation are also standard but they suffer in terms of reload times having to invest in order to be anywhere near the Abrams or the Challengers. Even so, the difference is 1 second ace for ace crew.

Sweden has a middle of the pack round also available on 4/5 of their top tanks but they suffer from the same reload issues as their german counterparts. Best all around thermal coverage, tied with the Germans and the Brits bar the T-80U.

Great Britain historically had the best reload in the game and it shows by the rounds performance. They have the L27A1 available on 4/5 of their top tier tanks. The L27A1 is the lowest penning round on the 11.7 spectrum which used to be made up by the fact that they had the best rate of fire, which is now tied with the Abrams. The Challenger 3 is the standout here as it gets DM53 but standard leopard 2 reload.

In terms of russian tanks 3BM60 is below average in terms of performance at 11.7 compared to the other western rounds. This is mostly because of the autoloader size limitations. Furthermore it is only available on 3/5 of their top tanks or a notable mention goes to the T-90A if you’re willing to sacrifice some mobility in comparison to a T-80 variant in order to have access to 3BM60 on 4/5 of your top tier tanks and a worse reload. Not only they have a below average round, they also have the worst reload rate in the game only beating a level 0 leopard crew. Some of the worst thermal coverage, only getting commander thermals on 1/5 of their top vehicles and the some of the worst turret rotation speeds bar the BVM, only beating the brits in general.

With that being said, this makes the russians overall arguably the worst in terms of firepower + handling + FCS.

Note: 3BM60 is the second heaviest rod amongst the selection which should make its damage higher than the rest in the event of a successful penetration.

Part 4: Survivability

The biggest elephant in the room as everyone has their own experiences of shots magically disappearing into ERA or volumetric turret rings. These values are sourced from playing around with the protection simulation so results may vary.

Crew size:
NATO tanks analyzed here have 4 crew instead of 3 as per the T-series tanks. This is both an advantage in staying alive and as when in need of repairing. Plus for all western tanks.

Actual armor protection:

Germany: Leo 2A7V, Leo 2A6, Leo 2 PSO, Leo 2A5, Leo 2 PL (400-450mm UFP, 680mm+ turret, 250-300 LFP)

US: M1A2 SEPV2, M1A2 SEP, M1A2, M1A1 HC, M1A1 AIM (400mm LFP, ~100mm around the driver’s hatch, generally impenetrable turret bar some very thin strips beside the mantlet)

USSR: T-80BVM (700-730mm turret, 750-900mm hull Relikt), T-90M (800mm hull, 850-900mm turret Relikt), T-80U (450-750mm turret, 580-650mm hull K5) T-80UK(450-750mm turret, 580-650mm hull K5), T-72B3 (450-700mm turret, 600-800 hull K5) LFP is generally weak on all T-series tanks, all values are with ERA protection taken into account.

GB: Challenger 3, Black Knight, Challenger 2E, Challenger 2 TES, Challenger 2F (500mm hull, 700+ turret, 80mm LFP)

Sweden: Strv122B+(700mm hull wedge, 500-600mm UFP, 250-300mm LFP, 700+ turret) , Strv122B (same as B+), Leo 2A6 (same as german A6), Strv 122A (same as the other swedish leos), T-80U (same as soviet one)

Some impressive numbers from the T series here. It means that generally they cannot be penetrated randomly even with the best rounds in the game. However this is where I must actual gameplay into account as it provides context that one cannot convey through just looking at the numbers. At top tier you generally shoot in 3 places (under ideal circumstances): The lower plate, the driver’s viewport or the gun area. This is because aiming center mass is relatively whimsical depending on the majority of tank models because of the sharp increases and decreases in armour depending on where exactly you hit the UFP (bar the german leopard 2s who are missing armor). I will analyze these 3 zones for each nation.

The lower plate:

Most if not all NATO tanks do no care if they get shot in the LFP. At most you will damage their driver, engine/tranmission and if you’re lucky you will nab their gunner as well. Most NATO tanks if not all at 11.7 also have dual commander-gunner controls meaning that if you do not duck into cover right away you’re vulnerable to return fire. Easier said than done in a T-series tank.

If you shoot a T-series tank in the lower front plate you will 95% hit its ammo rack and detonate it. You can hit NATO tanks in the lower front plate and take out 3 crew but you have to be in a very specific position.

Advantage western MBTs. That being said, the LFP on the T-series is a much smaller target.

Driver’s viewport:

The universal weakspot for almost all tanks excluding perhaps the swedish leopards which require 590-600mm+ ammunition to go through it reliably. More often than not it results in a kill shot however there are instances where the gun breech will absorb fragments left and right and not results in a 1HK. Generally as well, most viewports are the same size target.

Gun area:

When all else fails, shoot an APFSDS into the gun/breech. It’s not called breechthunder for not reason. In this case western tanks again have a clear advantage because depending on the model the breech/gun mantlet area is half if not smaller than on the T-series tanks.

Advantage western MBTs because disabling of the gun means you’re an easy target for a follow-up shot.

Russian turrets with the exception of the BVM and the 90M can also be straight up penetrated on a small portion to the left and right side of the where ERA placement is deficient.

Argument of size:

Another important tradeoff to keep in mind when discussing survivability in terms gameplay is the size of the tank in question. Why do I say tradeoff: T-series tanks are universally harder to spot because of their smaller size, this is an advantage in terms of survivability. However that compactness comes at the cost that if you do get hit, complemented by the fact that you only have 3 crewmembers, losing 2 of them in a single shot is a much higher probability if they’re closely packed together. This is most apparent when looking from an X-ray point of view how much more empty space western tanks have compared to russian ones.

All the more important since spall liners were added to reduce crew collaterals even further. Of course this change impacts all tanks but it doesn’t impact them equally because of the aforementioned proportionally more empty space inside western designs.

For example: there is only a miniscule square on the UFP of the Leo 2 designs where you can hit driver, commander and gunner guaranteeing you a 1HK. Whereas any penetrating hit on the likewise small T series left and right of the driver’s hatch will more often than not kill both driver and commander/gunner depending which side you shot.

ERA:

All the values I provided for russian tanks have been with ERA on. This means that for K5 you would have to substract another 120mm of KE protection and in case of Relikt another 250mm of protection in the case you get hit in the same spot twice. This means that indeed the T-90M will manage to withstand the most powerful shells in the game generally speaking on the hull or turret even with Relikt detonated. Beyond that ERA might save you from one center mass shots of all but the most powerful rounds. The same could be said for the majority of western UFPs however with the added benefit that they don’t suffer any degradation after one shot.

The tradeoff here is that ERA is relatively cheap and light way to armor your vehicle but it only works once.

Survivability conclusions:

Option 1 (LFP shot), the western tank survives while the russian crew takes an expedition to the moon.

Option 2 (driver’s hatch/turret ring), both tanks are equally crippled/dead.

Option 3 (breech) , both tanks are dead in the water without help but the weakspot is much smaller in comparison on western tanks.

T-series have a general survivability disadvatage because they’re cramped.

Their armour can get degraded but it does save you from a single shot center mass whereas on western tanks there is a chance for said shot to go through.

All in all, debatable which protection scheme is better in my opinion. These schemes were not designed in mind with pixel perfect accuracy for 50m engagement ranges anyway.

Other notable points: Blowout panels exist, side turret composite reinforcements on the later Leo2/Abrams versions makes it a pain to penetrate with 3BM46.

Closing thoughts:

Russian tanks have comparable forward mobility, worst in class reverse mobility, arguably worst in class firepower and some questionable protection efficiency because of how the game is structured.

And now the point of this entire essay: the T-series of tanks are basically already inferior pound for pound in most if not all aspects without western tanks receiving all of their historically accurate upgrades if we choose to handwave spaghetti code issues such as APFSDS tunneling to another dimension when hitting between two ERA plates of any kind, not just russian ones. They cannot receive said upgrades without making the russian tree irrelevant at top tier or pushing every NATO tank to BR 14.0 and play exclusively Abrams vs Leos with the odd Challenger mixed in while russian tanks would fight western designs from the 90s.

I know this is a sensitive subject but if you read everything so far I would love to hear your thoughts and your own point of view.

TL;DR Russian tanks are already the worst in the game, western tanks don’t need more handholding

5 Likes

T-72B (1989) is as slow as the TURMS, it doesn’t have comparable mobility to top tier tanks.

Those have better thermals than just Gen 1 for the gunner.

T-80B has 7.1s reload.

But other than that, pretty decent post.

So, when you say, “The US has by far the best reload rate, rounds available to them as well as also having the best depression and turret rotation.” Are you only referring to the reload rate? The reason I ask is because, if you look at the numbers you put up yourself this is not the case. DM 53 sits at per your research 623mm while the M829A2 sits at 629mm. It comes off as disingenuous stating it like that. 6mm is nothing interims of difference of penetration. While I understand this is your opinion, it comes off as distorted. I do have other grievances however for the most part I feel you did good work here.

I believe that’s flat pen, which is largely irrelevant at top tier. The third number for each shell is probably 60 degree penetration, a much more significant number.
Now I don’t have all the exact pen numbers memorized so I may be wrong lol

I was indeed only referring to the reload rate, the rest are pretty comparable between the Abrams and the Leopard 2 series, albeit slightly better on the Abrams. Roughly 3 degrees a second turret rotation is not exactly a factor that will save you more often than not but I wanted to as complete as possible.

In terms of 30/60 degree penetration values they’re still in the correct order because as far as I am aware these rounds all have the “long rod” coefficients, meaning that 30/60 degree pen is simply a flat multiplier of the 0 degree pen.

Nooo!! This is a lie, because there is no Russian bias listed anywhere!!1!